Football season kicks off

(Photos by Michael Clifton and Adam Hagy)

Sandy Creek falls in season opening shootout loss

by Russell Cooks

The Sandy Creek Patriots came up a little short in an offensive shootout with the Fort Dorchester Patriots in the 2016 Erk Russell Classic played at Georgia Southern’s stadium. Fort Dorchester, a defending state champion from South Carolina, heads home with a 48-35 win.
Sandy Creek was powered by two of their three prolific running backs, Drezyn Parson and Jaelen Greene, as they rushed for almost 300 yards. Fort Dorchester was led by their dual-threat quarterback junior Dakereon Joyner. Joyner flashed his big play ability, torching the secondary for a number of bombs and throwing for 439 yards on only 14 of 23 passing, along with 70 yards on the ground.
Joyner connected with Rayquan Simmons on a 77-yard touchdown pass to give Fort Dorchester a 6-0 late in the first quarter. Fort Dorchester missed the extra point.
Sandy Creek’s junior signal caller Bryant Walker quickly brought the Patriots back with a pass to University of Minnesota commit Javan Hawes to the three yard line. After a penalty backed them up, it was Walker connecting with Kaleb Slaughter on a perfect pass up the sideline to give Sandy Creek a 7-6 lead.
Coach Chip Walker effectively implemented his multi-back attack of Parson, Greene, and fullback Eric Wood. Greene gashed Fort Dorchester for long first down run, then Parson slashed for nine yards. On 3rd and 1, Wood converted. Parson scored on a 4-yard pitch around the left end to give Sandy Creek a 14-6 lead.
Joyner quickly went back to work for Fort Dorchester as he connected on a 45-yard completion deep into Sandy Creek territory. Facing 4th down, Joyner scrambled and shuffled the ball to a receiver to move the chains. He finished off the drive with an 18-yard scramble to pull within 14-13.
After an amazing kickoff return by Parson and a pass interference by Fort Dorchester, Sandy Creek was in scoring position again. Wood gained 16 yards on a first down carry, and Greene picked up another first down on a great second effort. Two plays later, it was Parson scoring again on a 3-yard dive. With 1:45 left before halftime, Sandy Creek led 21-13.
Two plays later, it was Joyner connecting with Justin Williams on a 72-yard bomb. Joyner converted on the two conversion and the halftime score was 21-21.
It was a stellar first half for both sides. Sandy Creek had 194 yards rushing and Cincinnati commit Greene accounted for 101 yards.
On the first series of the second half, Joyner fumbled and Colby Warrior picked it up and dashed 35 yards for a touchdown. Sandy Creek missed the extra point for a  27-21 margin.
Missed opportunities would plague the Patriots as Fort Dorchester surged. The defense held, and the Patriots got the ball on the 31, but a series of penalties killed the drive. Fort Dorchester fumbled a punt on their own 42, but penalties would again keep Sandy Creek from capitalizing.
Joyner kept going in the second half as he connected on a 24-yard pass and 14-yard pass. Williams scored on a 1-yard reverse to give Fort Dorchester a 28-27 lead with 2:08 remaining in the third.
Greene became the “workhorse” on the next Sandy Creek drive as he made runs of 5, 4, 14, and 30 yards. Parson came in as a change of pace and picked up another 6 yards. Greene scored on 6-yard touchdown and added a two point conversion to give Sandy Creek a 35-28 lead at the 9:43 mark.
Only 13 seconds later, it was Joyner connecting with Williams for an 80-yard touchdown to tie the score at 35.
On the next possession, Sandy Creek slipped up and let Fort Dorchester get a cushion, as a bad punt snap allowed them to get the ball at the Creek 25. Joyner connected with Williams two plays later for a 24-yard touchdown and Fort Dorchester led 42-35 with 6:42 remaining.
Greene put Sandy Creek in great field position as ran the kickoff to the 39. Walker connected with Slaughter on a 16-yard pass, then Wood on an 8-yard pass, but it was two yards short of the first down marker on fourth down.
The Sandy Creek defense mounted another great effort, holding for a 3rd and long. Joyner connected on a touchdown, but it was called back for holding. On 3rd and 25, he did it again, finding Williams on a short pass in the middle of the field short of the sticks, but Williams would break loose from a tackle and race the distance on a 79-yard score to end any hopes that Sandy Creek had of a comeback.
Coach Walker said, “We are disappointed that we didn’t win the game. We had the opportunities, but we had some mental breakdowns that did not allow us to effectively execute. We saw some good things and we saw some things that we need to work on. We had lapses on both sides of ball. Overall, we did a pretty good job, but we are not into moral victories around here. We capitalize on our opportunities at Sandy Creek.
“I was pleased with some of the young guys up front on our offensive line and our defensive line. They really did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage, especially since it was the first time starting for most of them. Now, we have seven straight days of practice to get ready for Altoona and we will be prepared.”
Jaelen Greene ended the game with more than 200 all-purpose yards (175 rushing yards) and Drezyn Parson ended the night with more than 100 all-purpose yards(70 rushing yards) and two touchdowns.
“It was a big time game, and I feel that we showed up ready for the challenge. We just didn’t finish the game,” said Parson. “We had some mental errors, and we did not execute down the stretch. I am confident that we can make the necessary adjustments and be the great team that we are. After all, we have a great team and we are coached by great coaches. I am looking forward to a great season.
Jaelen Greene added, “I feel like we should have capitalized on both sides of the ball. We should have won the game. Now, we must move on. We will watch the film on the game. Make the necessary corrections and prepare for Alatoona.”
Sandy Creek gets a week off before they travel to face Allatoona, the reigning state champ in AAAAA, on September 2.


McIntosh shakes off slow start in 30-7 romp over Decatur

by Christopher Dunn

The McIntosh Chiefs shook off a sloppy start in soggy conditions, scoring a commanding opening night victory over the Decatur Bulldogs, 30-7. With a start delayed by lightning and a field soaked by pregame driving rains, the Chiefs kept calm and dominated most of the night.
“We’re very pleased. You work all the way back to last November, and tonight we were able to do the things that we talked about, and we were able to execute really well for week zero,” said McIntosh coach Lee Belknap. “The biggest thing I was proud of was the effort of our kids. We’ve challenged them to go four to six seconds from point A to point B as hard as they can and just turn it loose. If they do that, good things will happen, and we’ll like the results.”
The opening stages were a mixed bag for the Chiefs. Bradley Ector sliced through the defense for 13 yards on the first play, and Zach Sanders hit Dane Kinamon for 11 yards to move the chains again, but the drive would stall on a failed fourth down conversion attempt in Bulldog territory. Decatur would respond with their own hot start, picking up 25 yards on their first play from scrimmage to push past midfield. The Chief defense thought they had stalled the drive with a Zach Anderson tackle in the backfield, but on 4th and eight the Bulldogs found a receiver open over the top for a 38-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The slippery conditions would wreak havoc late in the quarter as Ector broke loose and raced up the sideline, but lost the grip on the ball, cutting him short at 51 yards. He would lose the ball again inside the red zone, giving it back to Decatur.
After a disappointing opening series, the Chief defense played lights out, not allowing another first down until Decatur’s final possession of the night. They would allow only 138 total yards on the night.
“It took a second to get our feet up under us, but our defense responded,” praised Belknap. “It was really the same thing as last week (in a scrimmage game), we’ve just got to figure out a way to come out of the blocks faster.”
The offense would kick into gear midway through the second quarter.
“I was very proud of the way we kept our composure. We really played McIntosh football,” said Belknap. “We moved the ball well. We mixed it up. I’m very proud of this group tonight.”
The Chiefs chewed up the field in junks on their first scoring drive, Sanders finding Kyle Riesselmann in the flat on a screen that he took for 13 yards. Ector followed with a 19-yard run across midfield. Sanders and Riesselmann connected again, Riesselmann making a spectacular diving catch in the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown. Jake Donaldson added the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with just over five minutes left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Decatur return man stumbled and fell backwards catching the kick, landing on the two yard line. After they got nothing on three downs, they lined up for a punt in the shadow of their own goalpost. A high snap led the punter to step on the back line for a safety and a 9-7 McIntosh lead.
Ector returned the kickoff deep into Bulldog territory, and the offense wasted no time striking again. On the first play, Sanders scrambled through the defense, turning on the jets for a 33-yard touchdown run.
By the time the smoke had cleared, McIntosh had scored 16 points in just over three minutes, firmly grabbing control of the momentum.
They would add to their advantage again with the help of the defense and special teams. Ben Bryant slammed the quarterback down for a sack to end a drive late in the third, and a poor punt would set the Chiefs up on the Decatur 29. On 4th and six, Sanders hit Kinamon for 10 yards to move into the red zone. Ector looked to be stopped dead in his track in the backfield, but somehow busted loose for a seven-yard touchdown and a 23-7 lead with 10 minutes left in the game.
The defense brought out their hitting sticks again on the next drive as the Bulldogs looked deep, but Anderson hammered the receiver to knock the ball loose.
McIntosh swung the field position on the next drive, picking up 12 yards on a Jake Lackey catch, but stalling after. Caleb Podolski landed a punt on the four yard line, and the defense did the rest. Ethan Ange blasted the Bulldog ballcarrier, dislodging the ball. Trey Williams fell on the fumble, giving the offense the ball on the three. Ector did the rest, plunging in from three yards out for the final strike in the 30-7 win.
Ector was a thorn in the Bulldogs’ paw all night, continuously slipping through the defense and chewing up big yardage. He finished with 135 yards and two touchdowns on only 15 carries.
“We’ve got to keep him healthy, but he’s a difference maker,” said Belknap. “We’re very proud of the strides that he’s made in the offseason with his maturity and work ethic. We’re expecting big things from him.”
One of the Chiefs’ most unexpected weapons of the night was punter Caleb Podolski, who three times buried punts inside the five yard line.
“The coffin corner kick is alive and well,” said Belknap. “He’s a senior that’s paid his dues and waited his turn. He’s getting the job done for us.”
The Chiefs won’t be satisfied with the win. They know they left some meat on the bone, and that won’t cut it against tougher region foes. They will get another chance to sharpen up their game in non-region play next week when they travel to play the Mt. Zion Bulldogs on Thursday night.


Growing pains cost Our Lady of Mercy in 17-0 loss to top-five team

by Dylan Hynson

Our Lady of Mercy kicked off their season Friday night, playing one of the top teams in their classification, Mt. Paran Christian. A solid defensive effort from the Bobcats didn’t help pull off the major upset as the soaring Eagles took the win 17-0.
“We started too slow offensively,” Bobcats coach Jamie Aull said. “We couldn’t establish our running game early on, and in the second half we got things going but couldn’t finish in the red zone.”
Mt. Paran brought with them an option-style offense, which is can be hard to stop by any team unless they’ve seen it several times before. The Bobcats needed to adjust quickly, especially after finding themselves down 9-0 with 10:19 to go in the second quarter after a touchdown pass from Jared Knox to Kellum Rowan.
“The defense had to get adjusted to the speed at which Mt. Paran runs their offense,” Aull said. “We can’t simulate that in practice.”
The defense finally found their footing as they forced the first turnover of the night, punching the ball loose on a quarterback sneak from Knox, but the offense still couldn’t get anything, going three and out for the fourth time. The defense forced another turnover, giving the Bobcats their best field position at the 50-yard line after a second fumble by Knox.
“Once the defense got settled in, they did a really great job stopping them all night,” Aull said.
The offense looked as if they were finally ready to score the first points of the season after a pass interference on the Eagles and a catch near the 10-yard line by the tall junior receiver Javon Henderson. However, two penalties by Mercy brought them back 25 yards and the Bobcats couldn’t recover, settling for another punt.
The defense would record its third turnover on an interception by junior Cameron Browning, but still couldn’t find the end zone as the game reached halftime with Mt. Paran clinging to a 9-0 lead.
The Bobcats impressively held Mt. Paran to nine points in the first half, but still couldn’t find the end zone to cut the deficit. After yet another three and out to open the third quarter, Mercy found their best shot to score. After another turnover forced by the Bobcat defense, Mercy stood just outside the red zone, looking to score. The threat would vanish quickly on an overthrown ball by and then a dropped pass in the end zone kept Mt. Paran ahead 9-0.
“[Garrison Hand] is a young guy, and he’s still learning how to play quarterback,” Aull said of his starting quarterback. “It’s just growing pains with him, and the more he plays, the better he’ll get.”
Mercy found yet another great chance to score as the third quarter came to a close. Freshman running back Caleb Pressley strung together some big runs down the stretch, something the Bobcats couldn’t do in the first half, but came up short of a first down. The Bobcats lined up for a punt, but direct snapped it to senior Kevin Malwah for a first down to keep the drive alive as the quarter came to a close.
Mercy needed to score and found themselves with another perfect chance after a first down run by senior Dwight Robbins. However, missed opportunities struck again as an overthrown pass and a dropped ball stalled their effort to break the goose egg on the scoreboard.
“That’s going to be the difference from us being a really good team and an average team,” Aull said. “If we want to be really good and take our game to the next level, we’re going to have to finish those plays off.”
Tempers started to boil over after yet another Eagle turnover as the benches almost cleared due to a scuffle. Two Bobcats players had to be held back by coaches to make sure their team wasn’t penalized even more than they were. Offsetting penalties was the call, and Mercy got the ball back, but frustration was showing late in the game.
“I think we handled the situation pretty well to be honest,” Aull said. “As soon as we saw what happened, two of our guys jumped on the field, and we got them back on our sideline. It was an issue with both teams on the sideline, but we got our guys back and cooler heads prevailed.”
The Bobcats couldn’t do anything with the ball the next series and were upset over a potential pass interference that was not called. The next series for the Eagles would ice the game as Knox tallied four big runs through a tired defense and scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to make it 17-0 Mt. Paran.
Mercy tried to put up some points late, but a fumble past midfield sealed their fate and Mt. Paran escaped with a 17-0 win.
“We’re doing new things on offense and defense, we’re still getting used to each other,” Aull said. “But one thing about my guys is that they’re a great group, they work hard, and it doesn’t matter who they play, they are going to work hard.”
Mercy will have another daunting task this Friday as they head down to Statesboro to take on Bulloch Academy, one of the better teams in the GISA.

 

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